Let’s be honest here. With the October that they’ve been through and with the list of injuries piling up, the likeliness of the Montreal Canadiens climbing back up into the playoffs’ race is minimal at best. Now sitting with a record of 3-8-0, they would have to play for well over .600 hockey to achieve that goal. That’s almost winning two games out of three for the rest of the season. Prior to Thursday’s game against the New York Islanders, they have a .273 points percentage.
It was funny interacting with other fans on Twitter the past few days as there are a couple of different schools of thoughts when it comes to the team once management realizes that the playoffs hopes are gone. What do you do with your young guys, particularly those who don’t have to clear waivers?
Many people think that since the Laval Rocket has a good team, it would be a great idea to send the young guys like Cole Caufield and Alexander Romanov (amongst others) down to the AHL to play more dominant roles in a winning environment. There’s something to be said about that.
The NHL is not a development league and after the holidays, games get tougher. For one, the toll of the long season on the body but mostly, you have playoffs’ races and teams getting ready for a playoffs’ run. It’s a difficult situation to try to learn and apply techniques to develop a young player’s skills.
In this situation, you send both Caufield and Romanov down to Laval to help the team hopefully have a long run in the playoffs and to work on specific aspects of their game and get more touch of the puck. This will result on some AHL players being sent down to Trois-Rivières in the ECHL and do the same with the Lions. Players and fans will have to bite the bullet and understand that it’s for their development and it doesn’t speak of their future.
NHL opposition test
The other mindset is from an organizational point of view. Coaches and GM will want to see where their young players are in their development and what better way to gauge that than to have them face that tough opposition at the NHL level? This would mean to trade away some veterans, particularly those in the last year of their contracts and/or the ones the Canadiens don’t see in their short to mid-term plans.
Then, you bring up the kids but you have to play them to their strength. The coaching staff has to have management on their side to allow those kids to make mistakes and throwing them back out there, at the risk of costing the team some games. It’s crucial for a GM to be on the same page as the coaches as if your head coach does that, he doesn’t want to be fired for doing so.
If the Habs chose to do that, up come Caufield, Romanov, Ylönen, Pezzetta and maybe Harvey-Pinard, for example. You play the offensive players on the top-9 and give them some spotted power play and/or penalty killing time. You then ensure to provide your veterans time to completely heal from injuries. Those who need surgeries, you allow them to get that done during the season instead of waiting in the off-season. But you will still have veterans who want to play, so spots and roles are limited.
To avoid at all cost
What you don’t want to see is a team sitting on the fence by keeping status quo. You don’t want to send mixed messages to your coaches, to your players, to your fans. You either go for it or you don’t. And if you don’t, you make the decisions not based on this season, but for years to come. You chose what type of environment you want for your young guns.
Either way, this will be a time to prepare for next season and continue in the direction that you see this organisation going. Your every moves are geared towards player development, getting rid of some players, stocking up on draft picks (again).
The Canadiens already have some very promising prospects at all levels who continue developing. They need to focus on and look after the ones on the verge of having an impact at the NHL level. They don’t have to make that decision today. They have a couple of months. But they must start having a plan A and plan B, whatever they chose. One thing is for sure, they must avoid sitting on the fence between the two.
First of all, a question needs to be answered by the team’s President, Geoff Molson. Who do you want to see making those decisions and moves? If it’s Marc Bergevin, give him a contract extension. Otherwise, cut him loose and get your man.